On the day that I left Ronda for Granada, I was musing in the morning about how I was having fewer transportation issues overall than the previous time I was in Europe. I really should have known that I was jinxing myself by thinking that. On the afternoon train ride to Granada everything was going fine for awhile but then everyone on the train was informed that the train would be stopping at a station along the way and then we would all have to be taken the rest of the way to Granada by bus. This wasn’t too bad, but it set up complications for the next leg of the journey. When I arrived in Granada I saw that the train station was under renovation and no trains were arriving or departing from it. As I later found out, the construction was to adapt the Granada train station so that it could become part of the AVE high speed rail network. Several other people that arrived in Granada were trying to figure out how they were going get to their next city, and no one was making any progress, so I thought it better to leave the station and come back later in the day. Granada’s train station is a ways out from the center of town and it took me about 30 minutes to walk to my hostel. At the hostel I was able to go online and gather some more info on what was being done for train/bus service out of the city, and after storing my stuff I went out to catch a bus back to the train station. I got on the right bus, but heading the wrong way. Because the bus route was a giant loop, I figured I could just wait for the bus to turn around and then stay on it until it reached the train station. A ticket inspector told me otherwise. I had to get off, buy another bus ticket, and then wait for the next bus. It was late in the day when I got to the train station, but on the plus side there was no one in line at the service desk. With the trains not operating in Granada, the national company that operates the train system was using buses to get people to another train station west of the city, and from there people could get onto trains going wherever. I made arrangements for my departure from Granada, and now could start seeing the city. The last time I was in Granada I only had a short time there, so I was looking forward to getting a second look at the city. It was nighttime when I got back to the city center and there were a lot of people out in their Halloween costumes. A walked around a little, but I didn’t want to stay out late because I was getting up early the next day.
The reason I was getting up early was because I was going to visit the Alhambra Palace, but I didn’t have a reservation. If you don’t have a reserved entry time, you can still get in by purchasing one of the non-reserved tickets that go on sale each day at the entrance, but you’ll want to show up before the Alhambra opens to make sure you get one. On my previous visit to Granada I had been in the same situation and I showed up an hour early just to be safe, but this turned out to be unnecessary as there were 200 unreserved tickets available (and not many people ahead of me in the line). Remembering this, I showed up the Alhambra this time only 30 minutes before opening, and again easily got one of the unreserved tickets. Seriously, I could have showed up at opening and been fine. That said, I should point out that both of my visits to the Alhambra have been in non peak season times of the year (in 2012 I was there at the end of April and in 2015 at the start of November) and it could very well be that if someone wants to buy an unreserved ticket during peak season they really do need to show up an hour early. Anyways, let’s get back to the story. Since the last time I was in Granada I selected the morning entry time, I decided to do the afternoon entry time for the sake of doing something different. The down side to this was that I had to carefully arrange the rest of my schedule for the day. It was Sunday, so lots of sights opened late and closed early. The sun was now up and I went back to the hostel to quickly eat before heading out again. At first I was thinking of getting photos along Calle Darro, a scenic street that borders the Alhambra, but light at that point in the morning was terrible, so instead I did a self-guided walk in the area around Granada’s cathedral. I went into the Royal Chapel and saw the tombs of the Spanish monarchs buried there. For some reason no photos are allowed in there, which is really odd since no amount of photography is going to damage a stone coffin. Afterwards I did a long walk through the old Moorish quarter, called the Albayzin, and then went up to the San Nicolas viewpoint. There’s a ledge up there with a good view of the city that everyone likes to sit on. I got some time on the ledge myself, though I had to wait for a spot to open up. Right next to me was a guy playing some of that high speed Andalusian guitar music. I took a brief look inside the San Nicolas Church that’s up there, but it wasn’t too interesting. There’s also a mosque nearby, but it was closed to the public at the time. I walked down the hill from the viewpoint to Plaza Nueva. There I saw a few people doing a public flamenco show. I think that counts as at least a token flamenco experience. The sun was in a better position at that point in the day, so I went back over to Calle Darro. The street, which becomes Paseo de los Tristes further down, has been declared by UNESCO as the most beautiful road in the world. I’m not sure I would go that far, but it is a beautiful street. When I was done there, it was getting close to my 2:00pm entry time for the Alhambra. I hiked back up to the entrance (the Alhambra is up on a hill) but instead of going in the main gate I went in the Justice Gate, which put me between the Alcazaba (fort) and the Charles V palace. I went into the Alcazaba first. There’s not too much to see in there, but the towers have panoramic views of the entire city. I then checked out the Charles V palace before entering the Alhambra’s main attraction; the Palacios Nazaries (the old Moorish palace). While much the same as I remembered it from the last visit, there was a new area open to the public with a restored lion fountain. I followed the route though the Palacios Nazaries, reading room descriptions in my guidebook pages. Exiting the Palacios Nazaries put me in line with the last major area of the Alhambra; the Generalife Gardens. Being early November, the sun was already starting to go down even though it was only 4:00pm. I spent an hour in the gardens before leaving the Alhambra and returning to the center of town, where I walked around for a little longer before getting dinner and uploading photos to social media. That night I went out for churros con chocolate and did a night walk around the city. I also realized that I still hadn’t used the umbrella that I had purchase in Istanbul. Rain was forecasted for the next day, so perhaps it would finally happen.
But the rain never came, so the umbrella still didn’t see any action. That day I got up at 8:00am, which felt like sleeping in compared to the day before. My departure from Granada was at 12:45pm. That gave me enough time to visit the last major sight I wanted to see; the cathedral. The previous day I had walked around the cathedral but didn’t go in because there was a mass being held in the morning. The cathedral is the second largest church in Spain, after Seville’s cathedral, and features a massive whitewashed interior. The whitewashing was originally done to help sterilize the church’s interior and promote public health, and the locals liked it so much that the color stayed, making Granada’s cathedral one of the brightest church interiors you’ll see in Europe. Beneath the church is a small crypt where a few people are buried. While down in there I noticed a woman walk in with a small vase of flowers which she put in front of one of the tombs. She then stood there, silently, transfixed upon the tomb, while everyone else was walking around, snapping photos. Moments like these are very important, especially to tourists like myself, that these places do not just exist for our gawking amusement, but are in fact sacred sites that are important to people. After leaving the cathedral I had a little time to walk around Granada some more before I needed to grab my backpack from the hostel. When the time came I got my stuff and went over to the train station, where the bus was waiting to take me and some other people to another train station where we would connect with our respective trains to other places in Spain. I was glad to have seen Granada in a bit more detail than my first visit and hoped to come back again one day. The next city in line was the final one from southern Spain and a place that didn’t get a visit on my first journey: Cordoba.
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